Evidence of religious interest and services does not appear in any Church records, but appears instead in the town records dating back to May 10, 1779, when the Church and town records were one.
The earliest town records refer to a meeting of the freeholders of the Town of Hereford (as Hartland was then called). The free holders voted on May 10, 1779 to ask Mr. Martin Tuller to preach on probation for “ten Sabbaths more.” This indicates that Mr. Tuller had served the town as religious leader prior to the date of this meeting.
From 1779 to 1789, the town hired the following ministers: Rev. Isaiah Potter in 1779; Rev Nathanial Merrill in 1780; and Rev Wait Cornwall in 1785. By 1785 the Congregational Church had become an independent body, and it was sufficiently organized in 1789 to call and install Rev. Daniel Breck as its pastor. Simultaneously, differences of belief arose, and certain churches of other denominations in other towns. Still, the Congregational faith was the majority faith, as evidenced by the town’s vote to call Daniel Breck to be its minister. (… continues in 2002 church manual)
The Church Building and Parsonages
The people of Hartland built the First Congregational Church of Hartland. The idea of building a brick church was advanced by the Rev. Samuel Delano. He was the one who guided the change in location from the center of town to the present location. The land was given and deeded by David H. Sumner. The bricks used were made in the foundry in Martinsville. The dimensions were 40′ by 53′ with walls 18′ high. The cost was estimated at $1,500. To raise the money slips, which are narrow pews were subscribed at $33 each. Fifty-eight slips were proposed and the records show that 39 were purchased. The costs rose to $1,618 and all but $27.75 was raised.
There were three windows on each side plus two in front and two in the gallery and all had window blinds. A belfry and cupola strong enough to swing a bell of 600 pounds was designed. On the interior there was a singing gallery at one end and a pulpit at the other. Two aisles divided the side rows of slips from the center double rows of slips and there was a ten-foot lobby.
The building was started in 1827 and completed in 1834. The bell was added in 1855 and the donor of the bell is not known. The Meneely Bell Foundry of Troy, NY cast the bell in 1853.
In 1869 Rev Bittenger had some improvements made. The large winged pulpit reached by steps on each side was replaced. A cabinet organ, a chandelier and side lamps and a pulpit stand were donated gifts. The walls were repainted and there was a wide border and scripture quotations on the front wall. Two stoves were added at the rear of the church. The balcony area was enlarged about 1897 to provide space for Sunday School, for youth and prayer meetings and suppers. There was a kitchen at the rear of the room.
In 1906 new pews replaced the old slips and a chancel railing was installed. The old bookracks were transferred to the new pews. Later these pews were replaced by longer ones of the same design a hot air furnace was installed. The families whose names are memorialized on them donated new memorial stained glass windows. New kerosene angle lamps replaced the old oil lamps. Pressed metal walls were installed and a new bell tower was constructed from native oak.
In 1956 the construction of the new parish house was begun under the leadership of the Rev. James DeWolf Hubbard and was completed under the chairmanship of Henry Merritt after the Rev. Hubbard died suddenly of a massive heart attach in 1960. The building was dedicated in November of 1961. The new rooms housed Sunday School, the Pastor’s Study and a Meeting Room.
On a Sunday afternoon in January 1974 a sudden storm blew in the wall at the south end of the building behind the choir area. The repairs were all done through volunteer labor. Carpeting was installed in the sanctuary and new choir chairs were purchased. On Old Home Day on June 30, 1974 the church was restored and rededicated as it had looked in 1906.
Throughout the history of the church there have been parsonages to house the pastors and their families. The first was the third house from Damon Hall on the Quechee Road, the second was the house on the hill opposite the church and the third was on Rte.5 just south of the bridge that was bequeathed to the church by Martha L. Merritt in 1936.
Confession and Covenant of the Church of Christ in Hartland, 1797
As God through the mediation of his Son has created himself a Church on Earth collected from such ruins of the apostasy as return to and obey him; and desire to pay a grateful remembrance to His Son as their Crucified Savior.
We, accounting it not only a high privilege, but an incumbent duty, to join ourselves to the Lord in an everlasting covenant; and desiring to do it wholly to the glory of God, and with the highest marks of friendship to Jesus Christ, the great head of the Church – do now draw near and unite in this solemn service.
First by an honest and true declaration our faith; not by faith founded alone in national conviction; but a holy faith of heart in the exercise of which we believe:
1. That there is one God and but one subsisting in three persons, the Father, Son & Holy Ghost; by whom the world and all its inhabitants were made.
2. That the Scriptures of the old and New Testament are a divine revelation from God; a pure system of doctrines, which we are bound to believe; and a perfect wholesome practice agreeably which we are bound to walk.
3. That God originally made man upright in His own moral image.
4. That our first parents fell into a state of sin; depravity or want of holiness took place in their nature; that all their posterity descending from them are in their likeness, and come into the world in the same state of depravity and sin.
5. We believe in the necessity of regeneration from sin to Holiness in order to enter the kingdom of God.
6. That God according to the dictates of infinite wisdom has elected some to inherit everlasting life and leaves others to work out their own ruin by sin; but not in such a sense as excludes moral agency or free will in the creature.
7. We believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God; that he came into the world in our nature to save sinners and rose again for our justification.
8. That there is redemption through His Blood for all who repent and believe.
9. We believe in the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment; that Christ will at the last day appear in glory with his holy angels; will gather all nations before Him; will judge and reward one in that day according to their works; the wicked He will send away into everlasting punishment and receive the righteous into Life Eternal. For a more full and particular declaration of our faith, we refer to the assembly’s shorter catechism, which contains a good summary of Christian Doctrines founded in the Word of God.
In the exercise of this faith we come (we trust with humble boldness) to the throne of God’s Grace to enter into covenant with the Lord our God.
In the most serious and solemn manner therefore; we do now in the presence of God, Angels, and Men give of ourselves and our all to God in an Everlasting Covenant.
We do take God for our God; His Word for our director; His Law for our rule and guide; His Son Jesus Christ for our mediator and Savior; and the Holy Ghost for our Sanctifier.
We solemnly engage through His strength enabling us to walk in all His ordinances blameless; to sanctify His Sabbath and to reverence his sanctuary, to attend and join in His worship as He in His Providence shall give us opportunity: and we who are head of families at all proper seasons especially morning and evening to pray in our families, to read God’s word, to council our children and all under our care to keep the way of the Lord.
We solemnly covenant and engage with one another to live and walk together as heirs of the Grace of Life; to maintain and keep up the discipline of Christ’s House conformably to the rules of the Gospel: and that we will make it our business, as far as in us lies, to build up as lively stones, a spiritual house growing into an holy temple in the Lord.
We promise and bind ourselves by the most sacred vows and engagements to live together in love, as Christ himself loved us; to behave in all respects one toward another as becometh brethren and saints; to refrain from all chambering and wantonness, idle talking, jesting, tattling, backbiting and all improvements which do not tend to more Godliness.
In testimony whereof we have hereunto put our hand.
(Followed by 66 signatures)
Confession and Covenant of the Church of Christ in Hartland, 1797